Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Salt sugar fat by Michael Moss

Every so often a book comes along that makes us sit up and pay attention.  Such a book, is Salt Sugar Fat.  In this meticulously researched book, investigative reporter, Michael Moss reveals how the huge multi-national food companies deliberately add salt, sugar, and fat to their products to increase consumption of them and give them a longer shelf life. 

Some of the findings in this book are truly astonishing.  “Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970), and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day).  We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table.  It comes from processed food.”  I'm sure Canadian statistics would be very similar.  It is fascinating to read about the research that is being done to give food the “bliss point”, i.e. just the right amount of these additives.  Moss also describes how the food companies have used advertising techniques borrowed from the cigarette companies to make us feel better about eating processed food.

Moss shows examples of cases where multi-national companies knew their products and practises were contributing to the obesity epidemic, but chose to ignore the warnings, and focus only on the bottom line.  This book will have you reading labels very closely next time you visit the grocery store.
Visit the CBC: The Current webpage and listen to an interview with the author.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Purchase by Linda Spalding

The Purchase by Linda Spalding was the winner of the 2012 Governor General’s award.  It is a profoundly powerful and moving book.

In 1798 Daniel Dickinson, a recently widowed Quaker man, marries his servant, a young Methodist girl, to care for his 5 children.  He is subsequently shunned by his extended family and his community.  He really has no choice but to pack up his 5 young children and leave.  After purchasing land in the Virginia wilderness he attends a local auction to purchase tools.  He mistakenly buys a young slave boy instead.  Quakers do not believe in slavery, but Daniel has no alternative but to take him home.  Daniel’s purchase sets into motion a string of events that will have tragic consequences for all those involved and their descendents.

After reading the book, I’m still not able to decide whether I like any of the Dickinson family, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.  Daniel is a deeply flawed individual who raises troubled children in a time and place where choices have life and death consequences for them, their families, and all those around them.   This is a book about love, loss, family, faith, betrayal, cruelty, and ultimately freedom and its cost. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kings of the Rings by Sean Grassie

How many of us stay up way too many evenings watching curling events on TV?  Or check live scoring on our computers at work during the day?  Don’t let withdrawl symptoms set in this week – checkout Kings of the Rings by Sean Grassie.   

The subtitle, 125 years of the world’s biggest bonspiel only covers part of what this book is about.  The book is a history of the MCA bonspiel, but it is much more.  It’s not just a book filled with facts and figures.  There is folklore and trivia, and so many interesting anecdotes that I can’t even begin to try to decide on an example.  The preface of the book is entitled, A curler’s paradise, and Manitoba certainly is that.  Teams have come from Rankin Inlet in the north, and New Zealand in the south to play in the MCA bonspiel.  This book highlights the careers of many of the sport’s greatest.

In 1902, Rev. John Kerr, captained a 24-member contingent of Scottish curlers across Canada and the U.S.  Later he wrote an 800 page book of his experience, and Grassie gives us this memorable quote from Rev. Kerr’s book, “What St. Andrews is to golf, so is Winnipeg to that other royal and ancient game.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Power Play by Eric Walters

This week's OFF THE SHELF comes from our SCRLreads blog.  Power Play by Eric Walters addresses an important topic.
Cody just wants to play hockey.  He's not doing terribly well at school and is convinced that his only chance at success is to make it to the NHL.  His home life isn't good.  His dad is a bully and drinks too much.  His mom is OK but she is completely controlled by his father.  When a Junior A League scout helps him make the draft and becomes his coach, Cody thinks he's well on his way to the NHL.  At first everything is wonderful,  His new coach believes in him and tells him he is special.  However, Cody soon learns that his hero will take as much as he gives.  Before long, Cody's hero has turned into a villain and Cody is living a nightmare of secrets, lies and a terrible abuse of power.  
Eric Walters has done an excellent job of showing how a young player can be manipulated and targeted by an abusive coach.  This is a book that every parent should read and one that, hopefully, no child ever has to read.  The book contains an Afterword by Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused as a young hockey player by his coach.